New Delhi: Belying the tall claims of the Union government, more than 18,000 villages of Bihar are deprived of pure drinking water. Under its ambitious project – Bharat Nirman Yojna, Centre aims to provide pure drinking water to all the districts of the country by 2012.

Albeit, Bihar is not alone to face water crisis, as states like Assam, Orissa and Rajasthan are reeling under a similar condition.

According to the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), there are 18,431 villages of Bihar which did not have the pure drinking water facility till April 2011. Out of the total, there are over 1,112 villages which are affected with high arsenic levels in drinking water, while 3,339 and 13,980 of them are contaminated by fluoride and iron respectively.

Assam is the only state, where water pollution level is higher than Bihar. The number of villages facing the problem arsenic contamination is 1,849 and as many as 14,842 villagers are suffering from the crisis of water supply containing high level of iron.

According to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), presence of 0.05 milligram of arsenic in one-litre water is not harmful, but the arsenic levels crossing this permissible limit in water affect cardio vascular system in children apart from causing skin irritation and posing the risk of lung cancer.

While the number of arsenic-affected villages in Orissa is just 475, there are 13,216 villages of the state in which water if found to be containing higher levels of iron.

The Central government has set a target of providing pure and safe drinking water to all the villages across the country by the year end. The Union government initiative has met with some success. Till April 2009, 34,909 villages in Bihar were deprived of pure drinking water, and the Union government ensured that the problem was solved in over 16,000 villages under the first phase of Bharat Nirman Yojna.

However, the number of villages in Bihar which are devoid of clean drinking water facility is still high. According to a survey report, the highly arsenic-affected districts in Bihar include Bhojpur, Patna, Baksar, Lakhisarai, Munger, Bhagalpur, Katihar, Begusarai, Samastipur, Saaran and Darbhanga.